Fremantle’s attacking problems appear to be greater than many thought after the troubling first round loss to St Kilda

St Kilda have been working harder both ways, upsetting a Fremantle side who have been struggling in attack and midfield, writes MARK DUFFIELD.

It was a great loss – and it could have been worse.

Excluding the two 50-yard penalties the Saints gave Dockers just before half-time, this was a 10-goal-to-five game.

And that tells you where Fremantle’s problems lie: in attack.

It’s no surprise, but the problems can be worse than you think.

Nathan Fyfe got to where he was safe, then either got caught or, on the rare occasions he was, couldn’t keep the markers.

Luke Jackson failed to capture the ball.

Josh Treacy’s only goal came from a free kick and he spilled at least one other than he should have held on to.

Sean Darcy spilled a sitter after a brilliant kick from Liam Henry, Matt Taberner’s only goal came from one of those fifty yard penalties which in turn was the result of St Kilda vice-captain Callum Wilkie taking a fifty-fifty free-kick denied.

Fremantle had 65 within the fifties to 53. They had a backline that was good up front for much of the game. But they had an attack that wasn’t even likely to score and an attack and midfield that didn’t fare too well with St Kilda’s quick counter-attacks.

It was a masterclass in Ross Lyon’s defensive training – effort before skill. But it was also about St Kilda’s willingness to move the ball quickly and catch sleepy Fremantle players who were sitting by their men and not working hard enough to get back in touch.

One look at the scoreboard here and people who haven’t seen the game would assume this was one of those bone ugly Lyon games where he chokes the dear life out of an opponent.

But the Saints played the more attractive football in that game. They just worked harder in both directions than Fremantle was willing to work – back on defence, then work the ball out of harm’s way, then forward to take advantage of the space created by their attack and the Dockers players behind them permit.

There were worrying signs early on.

Caleb Serong’s four touches in the first quarter included two clanger kicks that led to turnovers. Darcy mistook for Nick Daicos and attempted an ambitious square-up kick back to center off the wing, which was picked up.

It was the result of Fremantle players not fully turned on and St Kilda players really turned on.

But when the Dockers withstood the early barrage, went after those goals from 50-yard penalties at half-time and then made two goals clear in the third quarter, they should have had enough composure to end that game against a team in the red Spearheads Max King and Tim Membrey.

Instead, the dockers remained appalled by St Kilda’s efforts and intentions. Players who should have taken over the game and gone fast instead wavered, leaving St Kilda behind the ball. Then occasionally a Docker would peek in and take a really big risk and put a teammate and the defense under the blowtorch.

It was a mentally deranged, sloppy performance against a team they should have beaten; a page that had been shaken early on and never quite regained its composure.

Defensemen Luke Ryan, Brennan Cox and Hayden Young all had statistically big games. Ryan had 37 dismounts in a strong performance for someone coming from an interrupted lead.

Young had 29 of 13 marks, Cox took a whopping 20 marks and had 30 exits. But not much came of it.

On the other side of the ledger, Jack Sinclair flowed back from the half with his 29 dismounts for well over 500 yards gain and exuded an attacking threat. Jordan Clark tried the same for Fremantle but his run dried up and his use of the ball became less clinical as the game progressed.

Fremantle’s midfield was overwhelming.

Andy Brayshaw tried hard, working 26 times both ways, Serong finished on 29 but made a handful of bad mistakes. Jaeger O’Meara and Will Brodie were neither fast off-road nor dominant at breaks. Darcy and Jackson won the hitouts 46-19. The Saints won stoppages 35-29 and regularly worked closely together, picking up Darcy’s punches.

Mark Duffield

Mark DuffieldStaff writer

Mark Duffield has a career in journalism spanning more than 40 years, having joined the South West Times in 1982. As senior AFL writer at The West Australian, he was a five-time winner of the Geoff Christian Award for Outstanding AFL Reporting in WA. He received the MEAA’s 2022 Clarion Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism in WA. He also spent five years covering AFL football in Melbourne as a football writer and was Melbourne Bureau chief of The West Australian in 1995. Fremantle’s attacking problems appear to be greater than many thought after the troubling first round loss to St Kilda

Chris Estrada

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